Since I was 4 I have always loved travelling and anything to do with travel, I loved going on family trips, and since I was five years old, I wanted to get a job in the Tourism industry. I spent a lot of my free time and even time I should have spent doing homework as older child/ young teenager on researching the tourism industry and getting any sort of worksheets about travel and tourism.
When I was 14, I was diagnosed with Anxiety and the following year I was diagnosed with Depression. I left school earlier than I wanted to and I faced a battle with my own self.
I didn’t want my Mental illnesses to get in the way of my goals and ambitions to travel and experience our wonderful planet earth and my diverse country Australia. I have travelled solo on trips for five years it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, and there have been times when I had to come home earlier than expected and I thought that maybe travelling solo was not a dream I could achieve.
I have worked extremely hard to be able to say now I’m ready to start again. I have worked with many mental health professionals to work on strategies to help me manage my mental illness in everyday life and while travelling.
So for this blog post, I want to share my top ten tips for travelling solo when you have a mental illness.
Please note: I’m not a mental health professional. These tips have come from my own experiences and strategies I have learnt from going to see counsellors and Psychologists for most of my life.
1. Make sure you get enough sleep while travelling.
Getting enough sleep is a crucial thing for anyone especially those that have a mental illness and while travelling it can either make or break your trip. In my own experience, I have had times when due to not getting enough sleep my anxiety has come out to play which involved anxiety attacks. It’s also important to keep to or as close to your regular sleeping schedule as possible while travelling.
2. Eat healthily and drink plenty of water when travelling.
This is easy said than done but when you travel you need a lot of energy so it’s important to keep your body fueled up with fruit, vegetables, iron and water.
3. Remember to self-care often while travelling.
Now I’m not talking about having a shower each day, I’m talking about using self-care strategies to help you mentally. This include
• Doing something that makes you happy each day
• Remembering that it’s ok to be gentle with yourself and do things more slowly. You don’t have to see the world in one year or do every activity that a place offers.
• Learning to meditate and doing it daily even for a few minutes.
4. Start with small trips first e.g., travel in your own country.
For my first trip, I decided to go to the red centre of Australia which is Alice Springs, Kings Canyon and Uluru. I loved the trip and realised that I wanted to see my own homeland first. The reason being
• I wanted to work in tourism in Australia so it made sense that I needed to experience my own country first
• It would be better for my mental illness because I didn’t need to worry about travelling somewhere that doesn’t speak English, all the needles and changing money.
5. Use Mental Health apps.
These days there are loads of mental health apps around and my go-to is Pacifica. I love Pacifica because it includes everything including
• Checking in with yourself and seeing how you’re going with life
• It lets you input what your mood is for that day
• Has an area where you can write your goals and a field in which you can write your thoughts
• It has a Relax Now page that has guided meditations for different situations, mindfulness activities and activities to help with your inner strength.
• It also has a community where you talk to other people in group chats that also have a mental illness.
It’s free to download and use but for full access, it costs around $53.52 a year, and you pay $8.03 monthly which I believe it a great price.
6. Seek professional advice before going on a trip to help with managing your Mental Illness.
This is something that to be honest I should have done but I’m grateful that I did end up doing it even if I did it after I got home from a trip.
When I booked a trip to The Uk I was mentally well, and I was very happy but due to something happening that triggers my depression I soon found myself facing depression once more but silly me I didn’t get help and told myself daily that I was ok and everything is ok when it was not. I still went on my trip as planned and I did enjoy it as much I could at that time. I was grateful that my friend who I was going to visit allowed me to stay at his house for a good portion of my trip and I was able to experience the real England. I change my flights show I could come home earlier because of how felt and jetlag is worst when you are battling depression.
I walked into my local headspace a few days after coming home and the first thing a counsellor said to me was “your so brave travelling alone and you should be proud that you did it”. At that time I didn’t feel brave or proud of my efforts and but now I do and her words of encouragement are the reason that I have decided to start travelling solo again.
7. Know your triggers and learn strategies to help you manage your Mental Illness on the road.
There are many triggers that can trigger mental illness, and for me, one of my triggers is not getting enough sleep. When you take the time to work out what triggers your mental illness can help take back control. You can also work out what strategies that you can put in place.
8. Have relapse prevention plan.
So you have been to a mental health professional and you’re now coping well with your mental illness so the next step is asking them to help you make a relapse prevention plan. My psychologist asked me if I wanted to make one at the end of 2016 and I find it really helpful. The things that are a part of a relapse prevention plan includes
• What keeps me well
• Strategies that I have learnt to manage my anxiety
• What does it look likes like when I’m having a tough time
• What are my potential triggers
• Who are my supports
9. Make a Mental Health First Aid Kit and take it with you when travelling.
Your mental health is as important as your physical health, so it’s important to bring a first aid kit for your mental health. My upcoming trip is going to be the first trip I take my Mental Health First Aid Kit with me. The things in my kit include
• My favourite quote book
• The current issue of my favourite travel magazine
• A blue putty thing to keep my hands and mind busy
• Mediation cards
10. Remember positive self-talk
You are capable of travelling by yourself and it’s ok if things don’t work out and you have to go for shorter trips or come home early. 😊
If you need someone to talk to
1800 650 890
1800 18 7263
Suicide & Depression Hotline – Covenant House
NDMDA Depression Hotline – Support Group
0845 766 0163
08444 775 774